Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The DNA of You and Me by Andrea Rothman

Title: The DNA of You and Me: A Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Format: Hardcover; 256 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (March 12, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0062857819
ISBN-13: 978-0062857811
Author's Website:
Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher. This in no way affected my rating. 

'A gene is a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. It is a long and finite sequence of DNA made up of ATGC nucleotides. The beginning of every gene is ATG, the universal ending TAG, or TAA, or TGA. But what lies in between the beginning and the end is a different for each gene, and encoded in these differences are protein molecules with wide ranging functions.'

Nearly 13 years ago Emily Apell was recruited by McKinnon Lab at the American University of Science Research (AUSR) to research where the the sense of smell comes from. She had lofty ambitions for the future. 'In the brain there's a map of smell. Odors are represented in a pear shaped structure behind the nose called the olfactory bulb, at spatially defined locations that light up in response to smoke, vanilla, grass....' No one knows how the map of smell was formed, but genes are believed to play a key role in guiding olfactory axons to their targets. Emily hoped to uncover the gene associated with the process, but finding it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Such a discovery would launch her or any scientist's career.

An allergy to grass is what piqued her interest in the science behind our sense of smell. She spent most of her childhood indoors, alone, never playing with anyone because of her allergy. She's a bona fide recluse. She prefers reading a book and/or working in a lab to fraternizing with other people, and it shows. She's socially awkward.

Working in the area next to Aedan Doherty and his team, she found herself a little envious of the harmonious relationship the group shared. For the first time in forever she wanted to be a part of such a dynamic. As she saw them laughing and joking, she found one person in particular garnered her fancy--Aedan.

This is a story about science and the hard choices we sometimes need to make to achieve our goals and fulfill our destinies.

'At the end of the day science has nothing to do with luck, but with truth, and the truth does not always make one happy.'
I am having a love/hate relationship with this book and at this point I'm unsure where my rating will fall. I guess I'll start writing and see where my feelings take me, and how everything stands at the end. First of all, let me preface this with a note to the author: My thoughts are in no way a reflection of your writing. I think your skills are good, the idea was interesting, the execution was sound, but the ending, in my humble opinion, well, it kind of sucked and it kind of didn't. Ugh! I'm so conflicted!

The publisher marked this one as exploring the "evergreen question of career versus family, the irrational sensibility of love, and whether one can be a loner without a diagnostic label." I'd say most of that is pretty accurate, but they left out one major tidbit of information that I felt was very relevant--this is a toxic relationship. My mommy senses were tingling and I wanted so much to take Emily under my wing and tell her, "No. Just no." I kept wondering if there is a book out there along the same line as ' Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals', but perhaps more in the vein of 'Girl, don't apologize for being smart, own who you are, and don't ever agree to be his doormat' that I could recommend.

I've known so many women over the years who have tried to mold themselves into the perfect woman for the guy they like, and it's such a sad thing to see. Whatever their guy likes they now like, and I'm talking in the extreme. They end up denying who they are and losing a tiny part of their souls in the process. While Emily may not have done this consciously or extensively, you do catch a glimmer of her doing it in the story. I also hate it when a woman lets a man walk all over them, and while Emily figuratively invites Aedan to use her as a proverbial doormat, I couldn't help but blame Aeden. The reason being I very much doubt Emily has ever seen a functional, loving relationship, and I doubt she knows how one should be. See, here is where the love/hate thing comes into play. I love that the author captured this sort of relationship, but hate that by the end the main character doesn't grow a backbone and/or grow as an individual from the whole experience. While Emily did eventually stand her ground, she never seems to realize she deserved better. There is so much material in this that could spark a great book club discussion or motivate someone into writing a self help book on this phenomena. 

I also felt perhaps the book should have been titled The DNA BETWEEN You and Me. Here's my reasoning, what brings Aeden and Emily together and ultimately comes between them is their quest to find the DNA associated with smell. Justin, the head of the lab brought Emily on to light a fire under Aeden and his team. Scientists can be a bit competitive and proprietary when it comes to new discoveries. Many people are trying to find the next big thing that will earn them recognition and get them into the history books. Sometimes the difference between one person and another getting credit for a discovery is just a few days difference, and as another lab is attempting to find the same gene things are tense. Both Emily and Aeden have very personal reasons for wanting to find the gene. So as Justin, their lab head, pits one against the other things get interesting, awkward, and heated.

After rereading parts of the book, looking at the passages I highlighted, and taking some time to reflect, I've decided to give this one 3 1/2 out of 5 roses. I loved all the science, and while my immediate response was outrage for what happens, upon taking a step back I loved the roller coaster of mixed emotions I felt. Plus, after taking a second look at the beginning and end, I realized time tends to soften things. For close to ten years Emily put her feelings on hold and I kind of felt she wanted answers and/or closure.There is a question posed to her and a response near the end of the book that I didn't notice the first time I read that suggests the possibility. What cinched my rating, however, was this passage, 'Whenever I sit down at a scope to observe the olfactory bulbs of mice made in my lab, I often find myself reflecting on the course of people's lives. I see never endings swerved off their paths, reaching places in the map of smell different from those they were genetically predetermined to read, and I think about destiny, and I ask myself if it exists as such. I get to wondering if there's a single place each one of us is meant to arrive at or if there is no such place, and destiny does not exist: we simply make our way as we go along.' I just loved that. Plus, the ending hints, depending on how you interpret it, there may be a happy ending in Emily's future. I'm forgoing my romance rating because by my definition this really wasn't a romance but rather a cautionary tale, and I still wish the ending had been a little different because, I admit, I love indisputable happy endings.

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